Delighted to say that I’ve managed to wrangle Stable Diffusion enough to make some AI pseudo-photographs of Cholpon Murad-Kyzy, the heroine of All Union. Though not exactly matching my mind (what can be?) they’re still pretty close.
Tag: Alternate History
I’ve used the term “Cuban T-72s” to refer to a very interesting phenomenon in fiction, especially contemporary fiction. Which is to say, something that’s technically inaccurate but makes an incredible amount of intuitive sense. And it’s technically achievable as well. What is a Cuban T-72?
Well, despite being one of the premier Soviet clients, Cuba has never operated T-72 tanks. T-72s are, of course, a common Soviet export tank. So even though Cuba historically never moved beyond the T-62 despite being actively engaged in Angola, if a thriller novel or alternate timeline had them operating that autoloaded tank, I would let it slide.
So if the rest of the work is pretty good, I can let things like wrong calibers off the hook. Especially if there’s an understandable reason why the author would think that way. Note that this only applies to small things like that-someone like Ian Slater who constantly gets the easiest-to-check facts wrong is not a “Cuban T-72.”
Amin Hayatov Official Portrait
One of the things I like about AI art is the ability to translate my words and mental images into pictures. This is a recent Stable Diffusion “portrait” of Amin Hayatov, president of the Union of Soviet Sovereign Republics in All Union’s present. The original picture had facial hair and something in his pocket that was inpainted out, and the Sovereign Union flag lapel pin was added in externally and then smoothed out through mild AI runs.
Review: The Death of Russia
The Death of Russia
It’s uncommon but not unheard of for a book to have its premise done better by something else in more or less every single way possible. So is the case with The Death of Russia, an alternate history story told through exposition and snippets about Yeltsin dying in the early 1990s and the world sinking into chaos. AH enthusiasts will also know that Zhirinovsky’s Russian Empire was another alternate history story told through exposition and snippets about Yeltsin dying in the early 1990s and the world sinking into chaos. Both started off as forum timelines and then were commercialized.
The first issue one notices is the writing style. Namely, giant breathless blocks of text. The timeline tries to do the “snippets from in-universe books and the like”, but this falls flat because all the “sources” read exactly the same. The second issue is the relentless grimdarkness. While based on stuff that sadly did happen, this just feels gratuitous. There being no real characters or anything but pure exposition makes both problems all the worse.
Eventually things spiral into a nuclear World War III. However, it’s worth noting that a fake interview with Evangelion’s producer starts off the chapter in question. Since pop culture is an obsession of the online AH fandom, this is not exactly a good start. The strike itself is no Arc Light or Red Hammer 1994. I actually fell annoyed at how a (mostly) survivable nuclear war, a topic that fascinates me, was handled so badly. It’s handled with all the grace of a minor league sportsball game report. Namely, a minor league game report written by an basic computer program that saw the box score.
In fact, what’s honestly interesting about the final nuclear exchange, besides the teeth-gritting “it doesn’t work like that” inaccuracies, is how it demonstrates a critique I’ve had for a while now. In the footnotes, the author doesn’t cite those two novels, or any real study on a limited/counterforce-heavy big nuclear strike that would leave society survivable. No, it’s another timeline, an earlier one called Able Archer 83.
But for any normal reading, I’d just say “read Zhirinovsky’s Russian Empire instead”.
A Soviet Romanian War Photo
Had too much fun making this “recon aircraft photo” of wrecked armored vehicles in a field in Stable Diffusion. I actually found it was easier to just make the field and then inpaint in the wrecks. And if it’s a high altitude, somewhat blurry photo, that makes the imprecision regarding tanks and the like less important.
A common sight in September 1998 and after. Soviet air supremacy led to fields full of destroyed and abandoned Romanian vehicles throughout the country.
The term “nuclear triad” is a familiar one. It means the three main delivery systems-aircraft, land installations, and naval ones. Or rather, the three main American delivery systems. See, it’s easy to see the grouping of three when you have only deployed three types of strategic platforms: Silos, aircraft, and submarines.
From this American point of view, mobile ICBMs in use by other countries fit into the land part of the triad, and the oft-proposed surface ship bases would fit into the naval part. However, the proposed anchored capsules on the bottom of the sea have more in common with silos than mobile submarines.
So in a different world where nuclear basing was more widespread, the term “Tetrad” or “Pentad” could be used. A tetrad of silos, mobile land missiles (whether via truck, train, hovercraft, or Wienermobile), aircraft, and submarines. Or a pentad of all that plus surface ships.
Review: Fire and Maneuver
Fire and Maneuver
The second entry in James Ronsone and Alex Aaronson’s 1981 World War III, Fire and Maneuver continues its predecessor’s excellent work. While it does not bring the most novelty to the subgenre in terms of its structure, in execution it does very well, hopping between viewpoints in a way that’s both smooth and fast. And it actually has an M47 Dragon being able to destroy something in a stretch of logic that works for story reasons.
Jokes about the Cold War’s worst ATGM aside, this is a good entry in a scarce genre. If I had to make one criticism, it’s that long, exact system designations are used a little more often than I found credible. But that’s a tiny nitpick and doesn’t detract from the experience.
Review: A Dream Of Empire
A Dream Of Empire
A recent work of alternate history by someone with the pen name “Grey Wolf”, A Dream of Empire is about a war between 19th Century Britain and a surviving Byzantine/Eastern Roman Empire. There are lots of characters. And there are airships. Because this is an alternate history work set in the 1800s, there has to be airships.
This isn’t bad, but it feels a little overstuffed and shallow. It’s trying to be a “big war thriller” and a spy thriller, but that’s hard to do with something that’s one third the length of a normal book, much less a big and sweeping one. That’s the literary critique. The alternate history nerd critique is that a Byzantine Empire surviving, Victorian semi-steampunk, and airships are all genre archetypes, if not cliches.
You could do a lot worse for the very low purchase price than this book. But it could have also been a lot more and a lot better than what it actually was.
Soviet Romanian War Aircraft Losses
For the Soviet Romanian War in All Union, since World War III 1987 is doing aircraft losses, I figured I might as well too. (Also, enjoy the Sovereign Union’s flag in picture detail!)
- 22 aircraft lost in the war to hostile fire. Of those, three were lost in aerial combat, two to radar SAMs, and the remaining seventeen to AAA/MANPADS.
- Around 10 more lost to friendly fire and accidents (the former being folded into the latter for obvious reasons)
- 30 helicopters lost in the war to all causes.
- 19 aircraft lost in the war to hostile fire. Two in aerial combat, the rest to AAA/MANPADS. Worse equipment, training, and heavy intense support of the Danube forcing contributed to the lopsided ratio.
- 8 more to friendly fire and accidents.
- 16 helicopters lost in the war to all causes.
- The Romanian air force of around six hundred prewar aircraft was completely destroyed, save for thirteen confirmed escapes to Hungary and U̴̪͇̺͒̽̚ṅ̴̬͖å̶͇̦͚̈́u̷̧͓̞̿t̸̬͛͒̌h̴̳͆o̴̤̍̐͝r̶͈͑̊͘ĭ̶̡̈ͅz̸̜̗̤͒̾̇è̷̡͙̊̿d̶͍̖̄͗̑ ̷̡̩͋͆̊ͅC̴̨͂͗͜l̷̰̤͎̊͝͠ẽ̷͈̟̅̍a̸̱͑r̵̨̯̽̆ä̴̞̠́n̷͉̘͊c̸͓͇̪̍͆e̷͕̾̀͆ ̶̫͔͔͑D̵̢̻̊̽E̸͍̗͆͝T̵̘̽͆̚E̶̞͐̓͝Ċ̵̟́T̶̢̖̔Ę̸̋Ḋ̵̯̒.
- Over four fifths of the Romanian Air Force was destroyed on the ground in the initial fire strike. Of the remaining not overrun/eliminated in the same way later, sixty one were downed in aerial combat, thirteen escaped to Hungary, thirteen more were lost to friendly fire, and only eight were taken out by the vaunted air defenses. (SAMs were on a tight leash as the planners knew there’d be a lot more friendly ones in the sky).
Review: Secret Luftwaffe Projects
Secret Luftwaffe Projects
Through diligent research and the uncovering of the original drawings and plans, Walter Meyer sheds some light in Secret Luftwaffe Projects. As a basic guide to the Luftwaffe wunderwaffe napkinwaffe, this is excellent. It also doesn’t pretend to be anything that it’s not, and doesn’t extrapolate or make wild claims.
But what it is is (deliberately) broad, shallow, and focused entirely on the basics. Each wunderplane gets a very short description of its role and a sheet of its (intended) stats. There’s no context or even reasonable speculation, but this isn’t the kind of book for this. It’s an encyclopedia of planes that never were, and in that role succeeds beautifully, complementing rather than competing with other books on the same subject.
And besides, it’s very fun to see all the crazy contraptions one after another. I recommend this book to any aviation enthusiast or anyone interested in the bizarre, because a lot of the planes here are just weird. But what did you expect?